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on 6/29/00.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle Corp.'s Chief Executive Officer, Larry Ellison, on Wednesday defended the business software maker's decision to investigate Microsoft, saying the software giant's "covert" activities needed to be exposed.

"I didn't go through Bill's garbage. But it is also true we set out to expose Microsoft's covert activities," Ellison said. "We didn't spy. We were trying to expose what Microsoft was doing."

News reports said Oracle had hired a private investigator to look into Microsoft's backing of several alleged front organizations, including such public groups as the Association for Competitive Technologies, Americans for Technological Leadership and the Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Investigative Group International, which had been hired by Oracle to probe groups allied with Microsoft, reportedly offered money to janitors for documents from a pro-Microsoft trade group.

Ellison said he took full responsibility for the actions but was unaware that IGI had attempted searching garbage for documents until reporters called him.